Tips For Buying A 1997-2006 Jeep Wrangler - TJ Trader

    What To Look For On A Used Jeep

    Ali MansourPhotographer, Writer

    Buying a used vehicle is an art form of its own. To get a good deal, you first have to know how to spot one. This means being able to overlook the tire shine and focus on the nuts and bolts that keep the rig together. We understand that not everyone is a Jeep savant, but that doesn’t mean you should get hosed when purchasing a used 4x4.

    We’ve bought a lot (and we mean a lot) of used Jeeps over the years. Sometimes, we get a great deal just by knowing more than the buyer, but we have also gotten our share of bamboozling as well. One of the most popular and sought-after used Jeeps is the ’97-’06 Jeep Wrangler TJ. This generation Wrangler marked not only the return to the round headlight but a technological leap with a multilink coil-sprung suspension.

    The 4.0L inline-six engine has a reputation for being reliable but leaky.

    Since Wranglers are oddly similar to motorcycles (you never get your money back out of them), you can stand to get a good deal on a modified TJ. In fact, often times modified ones tend to offer a better value than the ones that are mostly stock. While asking prices for the TJ can vary from dirt cheap to “you got to be kidding me!”, the more you know about what you are looking at, the better deal you can get.

    The list we’ve put together here is meant to be in addition to all of the normal used vehicle checks. You know, things like checking the fluids to see/smell if they are in good shape, driving the vehicle, inspecting the paint, and so on. The good deals are out there. We’ll give you the things to look for. You’re on your own when it comes time to negotiating a good price!

    Nearly every staffer that has worked at Jp has owned a four-cylinder Wrangler at some point. Both the early (’97-’02) 2.5L and late (’03-’06) DOHC 2.4L engines are pretty reliable but feel painfully underpowered. If you add lots of weight and oversized tires, it only gets worse. If you have high expectations of driving on the freeway and using any sort of overdrive gear, skip the four-cylinder. Also, if you think that you can just swap in an inline-six for cheap later down the road, think again. You’ll have just as much time, and nearly as much money, as laying down for a V-8. For our money, we’d hold out for the 4.0L inline-six engine.

    The Rubicon Equation
    In 2003, Jeep launched the Rubicon edition. Fit with Dana 44 axles, selectable lockers, a 4:1 transfer case ratio, and a few other off-road-centric goodies, the ’03-’06 Rubicon has become a staple for people looking for a turn-key wheeler. The Rubicon package also demands a significantly higher price in the used market. Before throwing down for a Rubicon, be sure to weigh all of your options. In many cases, the bells and whistles fit with the Rubicon might not be what you really need or want. If you are dead-set on a Rubi’, check to make sure the lockers (and air compressor) are working properly.

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